Has your healthcare provider told you that your blood pressure is too high? There are several natural methods that can lower your blood pressure. Though your chances of experiencing high blood pressure, or hypertension, increase as you age, you can still take steps to prevent or lower high blood pressure. Making even small lifestyle changes can eliminate, delay, or minimize your need for medication.
Please consult with your healthcare provider to discuss what care plan will work best for you. At Iora, we work closely with your primary care provider and Health Coach to understand your health goals, come up with a plan to reach them, and support you along the way.
How Can You Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally?
Research supports the following 9 lifestyle changes for naturally lowering blood pressure. You don’t need to make all of these changes to see results, though. Making just one or two of these changes can significantly impact your blood pressure. For example, simply changing the foods you eat can lower systolic blood pressure, (the top number), by up to 11 points, and you can bring the number down an additional four or five points with each healthy habit you adopt.
Lose Extra Pounds
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. Your blood pressure rises as your body weight increases. Losing even a few pounds can lower your blood pressure, and losing weight has the biggest effect on those who are overweight and already have hypertension.
If you need to lose weight, it’s important to do so slowly. Lose no more than half a pound to two pounds a week. Begin with a goal of losing 10 percent of your current weight. This is the healthiest way to lose weight and offers the best chance of long-term success.
The help of a health coach also increases your chances of long-term success not just with weight loss but with achieving your overall health goals. Health coaches act as important advocates for patients. They are guides in your health journey, providing you with information and encouragement. They can help you work toward changing behaviors and making lifestyle changes that contribute to a healthier you.
Regular exercise strengthens your heart and makes it pump blood more efficiently. Exercise can significantly lower blood pressure readings by several points, which can reduce overall risk for cardiovascular disease. Because of this greatly reduced risk, major public health organizations generally recommend aerobic exercise for the prevention and treatment of hypertension.
- The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people with hypertension engage in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity, aerobic exercise five to seven days a week, supplemented by resistance exercise two or three days a week and flexibility exercise two or three days a week.
- The American Heart Association recommends 90 to 150 minutes of aerobic and dynamic resistance exercise per week, along with three sessions per week of isometric resistance exercises.
However, any amount of physical activity brings benefits, particularly to cardiovascular health. For suggested resistance exercises, check out these easy upper body exercises for seniors.
You can even combine chores with sessions of physical activity. Many chores you might already do count as moderate physical activity. These chores include gardening for 30–45 minutes, wheeling yourself in wheelchair for 30–40 minutes or raking leaves for 30 minutes. Examples of some physical activities you could try out include walking two miles in 30 minutes or one mile in 15 minutes, or performing water aerobics for 30 minutes. Small modifications to your daily routine can also add up and help get you moving. For example, use stairs instead of an elevator, get off the bus one or two stops early and walk the rest of the way, or park your car at the far end of the lot when going shopping.
Reduce Sodium Intake
Eating salt increases the amount of sodium in your bloodstream. This upsets the delicate balance of electrolytes and minerals, which reduces your kidneys’ ability to remove water. This results in a higher blood pressure because of the excess fluid and extra strain on the blood vessels leading to the kidneys.
The optimal goal for people with high blood pressure is less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, but you should aim for at least a reduction of 1,000 milligrams per day. For most Americans, the majority of sodium comes from ready-to-eat foods found in restaurants and grab-and-go items at grocery stores. The best way to lower the sodium in your daily diet is to limit eating highly processed foods. Additionally, follow these ways of lowering your sodium intake:
- Add fruits and vegetables, unsalted nuts, legumes, and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, bulgur, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, barley, wild rice, and popcorn to your diet.
- Pay attention to your portion sizes, especially portions of already prepared foods.
- Choose no-salt added varieties of canned foods.
- Rinse canned foods to help wash away the sodium in the water that preserves the food.
- Limit how much you eat cured foods, including cold cuts and sausages.
- Choose packaged food that indicates lower sodium.
- Do not add salt to your meals when possible; remove the salt shaker from your table.
- Include beans, peas, and more plant-based sources of protein in your diet.
- Substitute crackers and chips with a small amount of unsalted nuts.
Potassium is an electrolyte needed for your body to function normally. It helps maintain your body’s fluid and blood volume. This mineral not only helps rid your body of sodium, potassium lessens the pressure on your blood vessels. Increasing your amount of potassium decreases high blood pressure. Aim to consume between 3,500 and 5,000 milligrams of potassium each day.
Potassium is found in vegetables, fruit, seafood and dairy products. Potassium-rich foods to incorporate in your diet include:
- leafy greens
- sweet potatoes
Stress can cause your blood pressure to rise, both in the short-term and long-term. In stressful situations, your body produces a surge of hormones that temporarily increase your blood pressure by causing your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow.
Finding activities that help you relax can be an important part of preventing high blood pressure or reducing hypertension. Research suggests good choices to consider might be yoga, meditation, spending time with a pet or laughing.
Moderation in alcohol consumption is the recommendation of the American Heart Association guidelines. Specifically, men should limit their intake to two or less alcoholic drinks a day, and women should drink no more than one drink daily. (A standard drink contains about 14 grams, or 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol, which is the amount typically found in 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces, or a shot, of distilled spirits).
Caffeine definitely causes a short-term spike in blood pressure, which is why you are advised not to drink coffee or caffeinated beverages before a blood pressure reading. Caffeine’s relationship to high blood pressure overall though is not as clear. Research conflicts in findings, and medical experts disagree on whether caffeine causes harm or good. However, the general consensus is to limit your caffeine intake, particularly if you are not used to consuming large amounts of coffee or you are especially sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
Your all-around health will benefit from not smoking. But stopping smoking also lowers your blood pressure. Smoking tobacco, whether in the form of cigarettes, cigars, pipes or vaping, causes an immediate, though temporary, increase in your heart rate and your blood pressure. Over the long term, the chemicals you inhale when smoking tobacco can elevate your blood pressure because those chemicals damage your blood vessel walls. This causes inflammation and narrows your arteries. The hardened arteries then cause higher blood pressure.
Additionally, smoking dulls your taste buds. Smokers tend to salt their food more in order to taste more flavor. This makes decreasing your sodium intake more challenging.
Follow a DASH Diet
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, or DASH diet, a flexible and balanced eating plan that helps create a heart-healthy eating style. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) promotes the DASH plan as a way to lower blood pressure.
The DASH eating plan requires no special foods. Instead the diet provides daily and weekly nutritional goals. This plan recommends that you:
- Eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains
- Include fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils
- Limit foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel and palm oils
- Limit sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.
Read how a current patient used to the above tips to lose 27 pounds, reduce his A1C from 9.5 to 6.2 and lower his systolic blood pressure from 182 to 123.
Have questions? Click here to learn more about how Iora Primary Care’s relationship based care can support your health and work with you to lower your blood pressure.